Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Mike Toole's Anime Boston Puffy Concert Write Up (Part 2)

Here is the second part of Mike Toole's concert write up for Puffy at Anime Boston.  Again thanks to Mike for doing this.  Totally above and beyond.

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The girls took several breaks to talk to the crowd. Some of it was rehearsed with notes, but there was some ad-libbing going on too. I think Yumi's English has gotten a lot better. My favorite bit was when they started asking the audience for beer/bar suggestions.

Audience: "POUR HOUSE!" (a pretty good bar right across the street from the con)
Yumi: "w-whore house...?!"
Audience: "NO, POUR HOUSE!!"
Ami: "Your house?"
Audience: "POUR HOUSE!"
Ami: "...your mom's house?"

I wasn't expecting to hear a classic 'your mom' joke from Ami Onuki, but hey, it happened. Anyway, on to Saturday.

Photo Credit: Japan Times


I made it in time for autographs this time! Each session lasted 90 minutes, and they capped the line at about 100 attendees both times, and you better believe both of those lines were FULL. So each of us were allowed to have one item signed, no photos and no special requests please! As I got settled into line and looked at my 3DS (gotta get my streetpasses! Events like nerd conventions are great for streetpasses.), a lady in front of me turned to me. "Hey, want to buy a t-shirt?" she quipped. I declined. "I got CDs!" she said, and then I realized that this was the official merch seller!

Yep, they had a sales team going up and down the line, selling the merch offerings: tote bags, t-shirts, and CDs. I'd brought my old copy of AN ILLUSTRATED HISTORY to sign, but I happily paid the $30 for a copy of the 20th anniversary compilation. It was fun to talk to other fans while we waited - some folks were oldsters like me, others were kids when the Cartoon Network stuff happened and were waiting to meet their childhood heroes. Just outside of the autograph suite (we were filed in a very orderly fashion through two lineup rooms to get there), I bumped into another old pal, who was helping with interpreting. They pointed out something that wasn't obvious - Ami's daughter was with her! I guess she'd be about 14 now? Anyway, she was off in the back of the room. Cute kid, seemed pretty chilled out.

So then I got to meet Puffy, and it was everything I hoped it would be. Just said a quick hello, and that I'd been at the 2002 show in Boston and had waited patiently for them to return since 2005. They warmly thanked me, I got my signature... what can I say, my hopes are pretty modest!

Then it was time for the panel. It started a little late, and opened with a promo video, including all of the "Puffypipoyama" music video. I've been to a lot of these with Japanese anime creators, and they're a really mixed bag. Sometimes the A/V is screwy, sometimes the guests are tired or confused since public appearances at Japanese events aren't this interactive, and sometimes the people asking questions are real goofballs. The girls took the stage with an interpreter/moderator, who asked them some general, pleasant questions about their career (at one point, Ami said "there are some of you in here who saw us way back in 2002!" while looking right at me. neato!), what they've been doing lately, and the Cartoon Network show.



Photo Credit Moshimoshi-nippon.jp
Then it was time for audience Q&A! And this got off to a pretty hilarious start, as a dude in cosplay (didn't recognize the outfit, but he had some kind of big sword prop... maybe a Final Fantasy character?) got up first, and asked, in cute, stilted Japanese: "Do you have a boyfriend?"

Ami: Dude. We both have kids.

Yumi: Yeah, that's actually a really surprising question! Do you guys not get Japanese celeb news here?

At this point, the crowd has a giggle, and the clearly flustered cosplay dude quietly returns to his seat... where he gets his big prop, and BOLTS for the exit. I guess he was really embarrassed!!

Yumi: Hey, wait! Wait a minute! My answer is 'no!' Where you going, dude?!

Photo Credit Moshimoshi-nippon.jp
Pretty funny stuff. They talked about how the cartoon deal happened (Sam Register heard them on the radio and called Sony to get them for the Teen Titans song - it all snowballed from there), about how they're still goofy-ass best friends (sample remark: Yumi goes into Ami's hotel room to get her phone cable, and the dozing Ami, in between sleep murmurs, says, perfectly clearly, eyes still closed, "it's gonna rain all day today, so don't wear your uggs"), and I got to ask them what music they'd been listening to. Ami said she was into a lot of k-pop, and Yumi said she was listening to one particular song by the band Dresscodes. In fact, she had it on repeat all morning, and it was really getting on Ami's nerves...!

Anyway, soon it was over. The focus panel started late and ended a little early, but that was my only complaint. One odd wrinkle is that, while anime con attendees will roll DEEP for concerts and autographs, they're way less likely to attend the focus panels. There were only about 150 of us there! I was right in the front row!! It was cool to be up front, but I kinda wish more people stopped by...

A couple of final thoughts. First of all, I was really happy that Puffy came to my hometown con, and double-happy that I got to see them at every event (I'm usually super-busy at these things and have to miss stuff). I listened to "Spike" and "Illustrated History" constantly back in 2001-2002, a happy and interesting time in my life. I associate Puffy with that feeling of contentment. They were fun to see live in 2002. I took a miss on them in 2005, figuring that the audience would be packed with kids and this show was for them. I was actually at New York Comicon in 2010! But I was on the speaking program and didn't make it over to Irving Plaza in time to see Puffy. At this point, eight years after seeing them live, I glumly accepted that I'd never get to see them again. So this concert was a real gift. I'd like to see Puffy again, and at this point, I think it'll happen.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Mike Toole's Anime Boston Puffy Concert Write Up (Part 1)

Here is the long promised show report for Puffy's Anime Boston appearance.  What I can say is this may be the biggest concert Puffy has done in the states and from Mike's (and other's reports) it was a fantastic show.  Mike Toole is the Editor-at-Large for Anime News Network and has a column and is the point man for music on that site.  The site seems to be under maintenance, so I cannto provide links.  I am deeply honored he took the time to do the write up and is willing to share that with us Puffy fans.

So without further delay, here is the first part of Mike's Anime Boston write up.  All words beyond this point are his!

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Since there was a lot of "What's an anime convention like? Are the tickets included?" chat when Puffy's Anime Boston appearance was first announced on Amiyumidas, I'll explain a bit. Sometimes concert tickets cost extra at conventions (Anime Expo and Otakon, the two biggest anime cons in North America, have big-deal concerts with 2-4 idol singers and nationally-known bands, so they now charge some extra money for tickets), but usually the ticket is included with membership. This is both a good value for the attendee, and an attractive proposition to the band in many cases - they still get an appearance fee, and usually draw at least 500-1000 fans to see what they're all about.

For Anime Boston, Puffy had four events scheduled - two free autograph sessions (also a nice value, as celebrity guests often host paid autograph sessions), the concert, and a rare focus panel, where fans could assemble in the audience of one of the convention ballrooms and chat with Ami and Yumi.

The Puffy stuff was all on Friday and Saturday, because they were leaving for LA and their mini-tour on Sunday morning. I ran to queue up for autographs on Friday, but the line had been capped. I _did_ get to see and compliment these girls, and their photo-perfect cartoon version Ami and Yumi costumes. I had no idea at the time that they'd made it to Ami's instagram!

Photo Credit: Ami Onuki

Now, I know most of the senior staff at Anime Boston - to me, they're old friends. I also do a lot of programming stuff - I run several popular panels, and this year, I acted as moderator for a panel featuring the Japanese-American culture journalist Roland Kelts and ex-Studio Ghibli production runner/storyteller Mr Hirokatsu Kihara. As a return favor for moderating, the staff let me crash the VIP section of the Puffy concert.

I made a note to arrive early for Saturday's autograph session and headed off to enjoy the con until the evening concert.

Mike's view of the show.  Photo Credit: Mike Toole
The seats weren't perfect - just near the sound board, halfway back in the GIANT auditorium. But I was very happy to get seated there, because the Hynes Convention Center auditorium, in this configuration, seats 3,000 - and it was nearly full when I arrived, so I would've been stuck in the back if I didn't have the VIP access! I've seen several acts at Anime Boston - the Pillows, JAM Project, and Halko Momoi to name a few - and the Puffy concert was by far the fullest I'd ever seen it. The crowd estimate was around 2,500.

Anyway, I took my seat... and then was asked to scoot over by a pal who was helping with guest relations. So I sat about 10 feet directly behind the sound board, next to this one guy who kept getting up and making comments to the audio team. He was an older Japanese man, scruffy, ponytail, glasses...

Yep, it was Kaz. He was working, so I didn't bother the man. But hey, that was neat!

I'll also point out that, while the Puffy ticket was included with the con membership, it wasn't just a situation where you could flash your attendee badge and wander into the concert hall - fans had to seek out and get tickets in advance (one per person) for the purposes of headcount, and plan to attend in advance. So this was a crowd that was very interested in seeing Puffy.

As reported by your pal Chanel, this time Puffy also played with a 3-piece band. I thought this was a gutsy choice, but they sounded GREAT - better than when I saw them at the Paradise in 2002, I think! One interesting note - the guitarist was Koki Okamoto of the band OKAMOTO'S, who've lately done some collaboration with Puffy. They were also on the bill at Anime Boston, so this made sense.

As for the set list, I didn't take detailed notes. Like their other stops, they opened with "Puffypipoyama" and "Call Me What You Like." Later, the crowd went nuts to their renditions of "Teen Titans Go" and their own cartoon show theme - lot of cartoon nerds at Anime Boston, naturally. ;) They ended with "Electric Beach Fever" and "That's the Way it Is." If I had a complaint about their set, it's that it was too short. They only did 45 minutes! This is actually pretty common for bands at these conventions, but I was hoping they'd play a bit longer.


Monday, August 21, 2017

The Night Begins To Shine Review

It has been a while since Puffy released a new song though in this case "The Night Begins To Shine" appears on the "The Teen Titans Go Songs From The Night Begins To Shine Special" which is both long, unwieldy and goofy for a soundtrack album.  I will not use it again as there is no need. I only purchased Puffy's track as the other tracks were not of interest.

Vocally Ami and Yumi are in fine form, though I suspect there is a little processing.  Not a good or bad thing.  The delivery is evocative of 70's disco, which is well within their wheelhouse.  They show a little more dynamic singing which is good.



The music for "The Night Begins To Shine" is basically driven by synthesizers and drum machines and would not be out of place on a Perfume album. The flip side is with the vocal processing the music and vocals are tied together well.  I honestly was not missing anything resembling a guitar on the track.  That feels weird to admit, but I have been listening to Perfume a fair bit as of late.


Engineering for "The Night Begins To Shine" is good, but there are parts where the synthesizers sound a bit muddled and there are a couple bits where I thought I hear a little fuzzy sounds.  There are some neat underlying bits that bounce between the left and right channels.  On headphones the track does not fade out as you would think, it actually goes on quietly for a few seconds fading into a synth classical music sound.

Quick Scores:
Vocals: A-
Music: B+
Engineering: B-

Friday, August 18, 2017

The Night Begins to Shine, New Layout & Sundry

This one snuck up on me, a new song: The Night Begins to Shine.



You can buy The Night Begins to Shine on Google Play or Amazon.

Things have been kind of crazy the past couple of months and writing about anything has been not on my radar.  Changed jobs, kids' school, etc.  Nothing bad, just time and energy consuming.

Things are starting to settle down.  I have a really great Boston show write up in the pipe that a reader (also a fantastic writer) sent me. I will be slicing that into 2-3 parts and posting up the first part within the week.

Apologies for not chunking out content.

Finally broke down and updated the look of the site.  Hats off to Jeff for the old layout, it was great but I have been eager to re-tool for a while.  I may elect to do ads at some point... I could stand to make tens of cents but maybe it would help put a dent in my expenses.  Code for buying albums.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Puffy no Gaki no Tsukai ya Arahende!!

Just a quick update.  I have a write up in hand for the Boston show that Puffy did in conjunction with the Anime Boston convention.  I have to do break it up into a couple parts, but everyone should enjoy it.  Frankly it is by a much better writer than myself.

In the mean time here is some Puffy of a sort.  Tanaka and Matsumoto of Gaki no Tsukai lip syncing to Asia no Junshin, Tanaka and Matsumoto are my favorites so I was very happy to see them imitate Puffy.



Also some funny bits with the other guys from the show, but you may have to be a Gaki aficionado and old school J-Music.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Puffy Not Lazy 2017 Belasco Show Report

Reader Chanel No. 2 and I were talking about the April 4th 2017 Belasco Theater stop for Puffy’s Not Lazy US Tour.  They were gracious enough to let me share this conversation with the fans at Amiyumidas. I broke our conversation into more of a Q&A to help convey Chanel No.2’s great experience as a super fan.

Image Via @Puffy

Wes:  Tell me about Ami, Yumi and the support band

Chanel No. 2: I think PUFFY was wearing one-piece outfits with Converse shoes.

The band lineup was one guitarist, one bassist, one drummer and the behind-the-scenes DJ that set up the playback.  A different approach to their music. The band played with all their might so the music was shooting out into the room. Ami and Yumi were master sof ceremonies to interact with everyone in the audience.  I was impressed by their English. They definitely studied for the tour but they used notes.

I'm a drummer so I was able to analyze Cindy's (the audience chose her American name) drum kit. Snare, rack tom, floor tom, kick drum, hi-hats, crash cymbal, most likely a ride cymbal, and a cowbell. A different approach to their music. I was expecting 2 crash cymbals and a keyboardist.

I think the volume was louder than the '07 concerts. The drums seemed louder too. When they performed, it was hard to hear myself singing.

Wes: You did the meet and greet, that sounds amazing!

Chanel No. 2: I can't believe I actually met PUFFY! My heart was definitely pounding! I went with the flow. I didn't know what to expect. I was shocked by the number of people that came. I'll need to remember that (next time).

I approached Ami and Yumi. I think I said hi and my name. I remember Ami saying hi to me. She said my name. :-D

Image via Chanel No. 2

Yumi saw my top and basically thought it looked familiar so I said 'Bring it!'  I think they remembered the top so, in perfect English, Ami asked where I got it. I basically said I bought it from Japan and had it shipped to me. Pretty sure it was only sold in 14 Japanese stores. Had I known, I woulda bought a lot. It's quite a bit of cash but...

 I had staff take a pic of Ami, Yumi, and I w/ my phone. I told them I was gonna do a heart. I think Ami said 'A heart'. Ami and Yumi made heart shapes w/ me. :-)

After I got my pic, I said 'Thank you so much' then went to the stage. I miss them already!!!

Wes: Can you share the set list?

Chanel No. 2:  The set-list was very random. I dunno how they came up with it!

1. Puffypipoyama
2. Call Me What You Like (if you like rock-n-roll)
3. LOVE SO PURE
MC
4. TEEN TITANS THEME
5. JOINING A FAN CLUB
6.UREI
7. TRUE ASIA
MC
8. Your love is a drug
9. SIGN OF LOVE
10. All Because Of You
MC
11. INTO THE BEACH
12. JET POLICE
13. DOKI DOKI
MC
14. Hi Hi
15. RED SWING
16. Darekaga
17. ELECTRIC BEACH FEVER
MC
18. Radio Tokyo
Encore
19. THAT’S THE WAY IT IS

Wes:  That is an interesting play list, some I might have predicted but Urei surprised me!  What were some of your thoughts about the set?

Chanel No. 2:  (Puffypipoyama) I wasn't very familiar w/ the song but I'm not surprised it was the 1st song cos it's recent. They did the dance. I'd leave the song name as is. Pipo seems to mean 'people'? Yama can have multiple meanings. Mountain, peak, hill, climax, etc.

(Call me What You Like) That blew my mind. I don't even know if I heard right. 1 of my favorite songs. I didn't think I'd hear it live. I thought they were gonna sing 'Shall We Dance?' but I guess it's not a big shock. It wouldn't be new. I'm very glad they sang the song.

(All Because of You) My favorite PUFFY song. I'm very glad they performed the whole song. It's the version w/ the extended opening.

(Electric Beach Fever) The opening was extended w/ handclaps

Wes:  Ami and Yumi have always had a knack for entertaining the crowd with banter as MC’s, can you tell me about that?

Chanel No. 2:  I can't remember all the MC details but they asked if anyone from the crowd went to their '07 L.A. show. I said I attended. Ami was asked what music is her favorite these days. She said K-pop. I was shocked!

Wes: Was it fun for you, did Puffy enjoy the performance?

Chanel No. 2.:  Such a fun experience. A+!  I think I was the most devoted fanatic there.

I'm glad PUFFY had fun. Hopefully they'll come back. I wasn't sure if they were gonna return but I guess they still have a sufficient fan-base

Wes: Thank you so much for talking about Puffy’s show at the Belasco and thank you for helping me out with a tour shirt.  I’ll post that up separately as I am the master of padding.

If anyone went to the Boston, San Francisco or Dallas shows please ping me.  Same for more LA show reports!


Sunday, March 19, 2017

There is Not Lazy and Not Lazy


I like the fact that Puffy is playing in the US after a fairly long hiatus and this post is probably going to upset some fans.  I get that.  Frankly, I thought they had all but abandoned fans across the Pacific.  So the Not Lazy Tour does represent something of a surprise,  I do take issue with calling it a tour much less dubbing it not lazy. This had been bothering me for a while and I could not put my finger on why exactly, until I saw Shonen Knife announce their US tour and I have some tough love to dole out which pleases me not at all to do so.

Shonen Knife's touring is the precise definition of Not Lazy.  They do double digit cities on a nearly annual touring basis.  They are a band that has never had the same success as Puffy in their native Japan.  They have never had the same media exposure in the US like Puffy.  They have not had a vastly power label like Sony supporting them.  Yet Shonen Knife has far greater tours in the US.

The question I as myself now is why is that so?    

This is less of a shot at Puffy than it is acknowledging that Shonen Knife (Naoko Yamano) is personally invested in touring the US.  Not only does she seek labels to distribute her band's music, but she has laid the ground work for decades by touring the US.  People obviously show up as it is not a charity.  Ami and Yumi seem less personally invested and it would be my best guess that tours and many other things are handled by their people.  Which may be a byproduct of their overwhelming success compared to Shonen Knife in Japan.  It may also be that Shonen Knife has always been Noako's creation whereas Puffy is a group that was forged by Sony.

Perhaps it is an issue of personal investment and here is a rub as a fan of Puffy (more so than Shonen Knife, whom I like but not nearly as much).  What Shonen Knife has done for decades cannot and probably will not be something Ami and Yumi can replicate.  First the ground work is a decade behind Shonen Knife, but also  it simply seems like it is not of serious interest to Puffy to do so.

The lines of thinking between Shonen Knife and Puffy seems to boil down to this. Shonen Knife approaches a US tour like lets see where we can play and put together a tour.  Puffy approaches it by who wants us to play.  I think it speaks to Shonen Knife having some personal investment in touring the US whereas Puffy takes a more passive approach facilitated by their people.

I do not doubt for one second that Puffy could have a twenty date US tour and do well.  Puffy is arguably the best known band from Japan in the US, this might change over time as a band like Perfume makes headway... but for now a far lesser band, namely Shonen Knife is really Not Lazy and that is because Naoko Yamano has invested her energies into the US fans.

The smartest thing Puffy could do if they have any desire to invest in US tours is have Naoko Yamano manage their US tour dates and have Shonen Knife open for them. It would be a win-win for both bands.

All this said, I am sure Ami and Yumi will work hard to put on the great shows they have committed to.  They are not just engaging, but also professionals.  Perhaps if these dates are successful a door will be opened and there will be a new vector for them to apply their energies outside of Japan.


P.S.  I like Puffy far more than Shonen Knife and it genuinely pained me to write all of this.  I continue to listen to Puffy still far more than any other Japanese band and they hold the largest share of my Japanese music heart.  Puffy has vastly more range and talent than most Japanese groups, but I acknowledge that there is little substitution for determination of which Naoko Yamano has in spades when it comes to the subject of US touring.